Friday, February 13, 2009

Not Ahead in '09

-----Having just described some likely ups and downs for GreeneLanders this year, we venture some noteworthy unlikelyhoods. ----*Teejay Wins Again. Timothy J. ("Teejay") Hall Jr returned to GreeneLand last Monday to participate--so it seems from police reports--to participate in a drugs-related burglary, armed robbery, assault and kidnapping at an apartment in Leeds. He was arrested along with his cousin, Tyquan Hall, 30, of Catskill, and Melvin Lett, 32, of Coxsackie, after an incomplete 911 call, a manhunt, and a roundup based on idneitifcations provided by the putative victims, Caryl Juste Jr and Richard Lebon. The arrest follows by ten years Hall's trial in Greene County court for murder. According to the prosecutor on that occasion (District Attorney Ed Cloke), shortly after a scuffle at the Quarterback night club in Catskill (at West Main Street and Maple Avenue, now the drug rehabilitation center) Hall shot to death Lensley "Panther" O'Connor. Thanks to story-changing witnesses and to ace attorney Richard Mott, however, the jurors returned a Not Guilty verdict. In subsequent years, in Albany and Columbia counties, Hall was convicted of lesser crimes. In the present case, his suspected confederates, both of whom have done prison time on drug-trafficking convictions, have been charged with multiple felonies and are presently in jail pending payment of $500,000 bail or $1million bond. But "Teejay" is at liberty, charged so far--pending further police investigation--only with parole violation. (Incidentally, Melvin Lett's defense attorney in the present case is Greg Lubow, former chief public defender, who represented Teejay Hall's sweetheart, Holly Bagshaw, in the Quarterback Club case. After refusing to repeat, on the stand, incriminating testimony that she had given to the police, she was jailed briefly by Judge Daniel Lalor for contempt of court).

-----*Revenues Rise. Tax collections in GreeneLand grow, in keeping with growth in the assessed value of properties. -----According to official Collector Michael DeBenedictus, however, tax payments in the Town of Catskill lag behind the same period in 2008 by 30 percent.

-----*Republicans Surge. On March 31, in the special election to decide who shall succeed Kirsten Gillibrand as United States Representative for New York's 20th Congressional District, the Republican candidate wins a lop-sided victory. That outcome, coming in the wake of multiple appearances by outside speakers, is hailed far and wide as a sign--the first since November 2006--of Republican Party revival. -----The more likely outcome, however, is a closely fought contest, with voters bemused by the candidates' affiliations: the former high school teacher whose vocation for many years has been politics is the Republican; the venture capitalist of humble origins, who touts himself as a seasoned job-creating enterpriser (see is the Democrat.

-----*Bank Saved. The Bank of Greene County gets Federal bailout money. It accordingly joins other regional banks--First Niagara, Legacy, Berkshire Hills, M & T--at the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) trough. -----Actually, Greene County's eponymous bank won't get a crumb. Won't get help because hasn't asked and doesn't need. Its expansive little operation (11 branches in three counties; enlarged commercial lending) is thriving. Net income for the last half of 2008 ($1.8 million) surpassed the previous half-year by 54 per cent, and the final quarter of 2008 was historically its biggest. The new Ravena branch, according to President Donald Gibson (in Seeing Greene interview) has doubled its target on deposits. Lending to fire companies is a new, solid niche business. Defaults? Well, the bank did experience an increase over 2007 in "charge-offs," to $293,,000. But its conservative policies (no sub-prime loans, no sell-offs of mortgages) have paid off. On January 22, incidentally, the bank's 120th birthday was marked in New York City when President Gibson, flanked by Board Chairman Martin Smith and by former president Bruce Whittaker, rang the opening bell at the NASDAQ trading fllor in Manhattan. No other company in Greene or Columbia county could have done that, as none is listed on a major stock exchange.

-----*Muddy Cup Replenished. According to a sign on the door, that coffee shop on Main Street in Catskill will reopen "after restructure and renovation." The nominated return date is "mid-January." The sign also says "We appologize [sic] for the inconvienance" (sic). -----Actually, no renovation work has been done. Let's pray for a conversion: a Mexican restaurant, an Indian restaurant, a rathskeler with mini-brewery(dispensing Catskale? Rip's Tipple? Greene Brew?).

-----*Gitmo to Hudson. Most of the international prisoners who are housed now at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba will be transferred to the spacious, under-utilized Hudson Correctional Facility. This transfer, which enlarges the ranks of warders and thereby boosts the local economy, comes about because local politicians wield more power than Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, who argues for stashing the prisoners at the moribund Federal prison on San Franciso Bay's Alcatraz Island. -----And pigs will fly.

-----*Auctions Continue. Foreclosed properties will be sold at auction, as advertised, in the lobby of the Greene County Courthouse, at 411 Main St in Catskill. Thus, 151 Featherbed Lane, Hannacroix (James Lomanto, defaulter) will go to the highest bidder there next Friday (2/20) along with 309 North Lake Road, Haines Falls (Raymond C. Meyer et al. defaulters; liem of $245,377.29). On March 10th comes 42 Panicola Lane in Cairo. And so on. -----Except that the courthouse is closed for repairs. However, a foreclosure auction that is billed in standard legal advertisements as scheduled for February 25th "on the front entrance" of the courthouse may actually take place.

-----*Preacher Returns. Pastor Jim Finn will return to Catskill for the tenth anniversary of the End-Time School of Evangelism. That earlier drive "to compel lost sinners to come to the house of God," as recounted in a contemporary church bulletin, yielded multiple "miracles and healings," including a return to hearing for a woman who had been deaf for 45 years, abrupt ambulation for wheel-chaired believers, a spina bifida-afflicted child's return of ability to defecate and urinate, and even a homosexual who "hit the altar and was delivered from his lifestyle." -----Actually, Pastor Jim left town after bankrupting his church with extravagant spending. His former Full Gospel Tabernacle Church (originally the First Baptist Church of Catskill) has undergone a conversion whereby, as Snap Fitness, it is now, uh, consecrated to the saving of bodies.

----*Newspapers Rebound. Subscriptions rise, news stand sales go up, advertising lineage surges, doors are reopened. Yes, employees of the gigantic Gannett Newspapers group have been ordered to take one-week unpaid furloughs. Yes, Columbia County's semi-weekly Independent (often wrongly called a bi-weekly) got folded on February 8th (four days after its editor, Perry Teasdale,, won first prize in a national editorial-writing competition). Four days later, seven weekly newspapers (s-e-v-e-n) in Dutchess County and one in Putname County were closed, along with three magazines. All those publications were victims of the parlous financial state of the parent Journal Register Company, which also owns The Daily Freeman in Kingston, whose GreeneLand bureau has been closed for months. As for The Daily Mail (Catskill) and The Register-Star (Hudson), a complete merger, succeeding the current close integration, may at last eventuate, but an economic pay-off, ensuring survival, would not necessarily result. The financial condition of theiir parent company, Johnson Newspaper Inc. of Watertown NY, is not a matter of public record. Meanwhile, the ad-stuffed Mountain Pennysaver is owned (along with a Saugerties weekly and a shopper) by a big chain, GateHouse Media, whose share price has sunk from $10 in 2007 to a dime. -----So OK, there won't be an early revival of print journalism. Eventually, however, more enterprisers will notice the formula that works for provincial and small-town news. It is the content-loaded giveaway. It is the news- and features- and photo- and advertisement-loaded newspaper that, like the Pennysaver, goes to every household by mail and is given away at shop counters. Loaded with local news, it would not be discarded, unread, by recipients. Loaded with local news and distributed to everybody, it would fetch higher advertising at higher rates than a throw-away shopper could sustain. It also would earn the bedrock financial support that goes with being designated by local governments as classified legal advertising outlets. It's a viable formula, but it's not likely to catch on here in 2009.

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